Cigar companies tend to make their headquarters in cities such as Miami or Tampa. They like to be near ports to facilitate shipping and airports to keep the company principals near the terminals that get them in the air and off to customers or cigar factories. Tiny Foundation Cigar Co. has gone in the other direction and taken the quite unusual step of moving its headquarters to a tobacco field.
Foundation opened its new offices on March 1 in Windsor, renting the first floor and the basement of a building that sits on the grounds of a 50-acre tobacco field in the Connecticut River Valley. Upstairs is a doctor's office.
"I think we're the only cigar company in the states with an office on an actual tobacco field," said Nicholas Melillo, founder of Foundation.
Melillo's young company, which was previously headquartered behind his house in nearby Southbury, created the El Güegüense Corona Gorda, Cigar Aficionado's No. 25 cigar of 2016. The hard-to-say brand name (it's pronounced "wuh-when-say," and translates to "the wise man") has put Foundation on the map after its creation in 2015.
Although El Güegüense contains no Connecticut tobaccos, Melillo is a big fan of tobacco leaf grown in the valley. Born and raised in Connecticut, Melillo once worked at The Owl Shop in New Haven, and he uses Connecticut tobacco in his two other premium brands, The Tabernacle (made with dark Connecticut broadleaf) and Charter Oak (which comes in either broadleaf or Connecticut shade.) He previously worked closely with broadleaf when he was with Drew Estate, maker of Liga Privada cigars.
The field, which is lying fallow this season, is owned by the O.J. Thrall family, and has a roughly 80-year-history of growing shade tobacco. Melillo told Cigar Aficionado that he intends to grow a small, experimental plot of Nicaraguan-seed tobacco on the field just to see how it performs.
This article first appeared in the June 20, 2017 issue of Cigar Insider.